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To Cut or Not To Cut

Do you take the bloom off the rose?

That is the question at this wonderful time of the year when gardens are showing the greatest splash of color and variety of blooms. Lavender stems are so vibrant next to the stark white of daisies and the deep red Asiatic lilies. The garden is so full and beautiful that it seems a shame to cut them for indoor vases. However, it is so wonderful to be on the receiving end of a bouquet from a friend’s garden and even better to be able to give one from your own. But knowing how much to cut and how much to leave is as much of an art as the work of a great hair stylist. I am never sure what plants benefit from having stems cut and which ones can be damaged.

Upcoming Gardening Events

July 9

Native Plants with Beaufort Willbern. 2pm. 428 Rhode Island Street (362-8982).

Raising Chickens in Your Backyard with Monique Watts. 2pm. Urban Roots, 428 Rhode Island Street (362-8982).

Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy Japanese Garden Rededication. Delaware Park, behind the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.

July 10

Lockport in Bloom. 10am-4pm.

Buzz Around Hamburg Garden Walk. 10am-4pm.

Container Gardening with Dave Clark. 11am. $25 fee to make your own container. Urban Roots, 428 Rhode Island Street (362-8982).

July 11

Lockport in Bloom. 10am-4pm.

Buzz Around Hamburg Garden Walk. 10am-4pm.

Sculpture Garden with Doug and Sarah Fonzi. Noon. Urban Roots, 428 Rhode Island Street (362-8982).

Akron in Bloom. Noon-4pm.

Snyder/Cleve Hill Garden View. 10am-4pm.

July 23

Container Gardening and Floral Arrangement. Gusto at the Gallery. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Avenue (882-8700).

July 24 & 25

GardenWalk Buffalo. 10am-4pm. Visit for details.

Every year, I have toyed with growing a cutting garden and then abandoned it as I survey the gardens that already need my attention. But the urge was renewed last fall when I visited Ancestral Acres flower farm to view a cutting garden, where the end result is a barn-load of gorgeous dried flower bunches and arrangements. I realized that there were so many advantages to having a space where cutting would be pain-free.

But setting aside space on an expansive farm is much different from carving out a niche in an urban backyard. Finding a place in your yard that has adequate soil and sun but isn’t a focal point is a challenge for most of us. For those with established perennial gardens (and especially those on garden walks), there may not be an open space and surely not one that you are willing to plant in utilitarian rows of like-kinds of plants and then harvest.

But if you are lucky enough to eke out a space in your yard, or if you are near a community garden or vacant lot that you can gain access to for such a project, there are an endless variety of flowers and garden designs that you can explore. Patti Jablonski-Dopkin, the general manager at Urban Roots, is professionally trained in flower arrangement and has had experience with which varieties have the strongest stems and the longest life-spans post cutting.

“The list of great cutting flowers is long and diverse,” Patti says. “Most plants will benefit from having a terminal bloom plucked before its peak so that the plant can then shoot out lateral stems of blossoms. Cutting a little before the flower has reached it full bloom will also give you a longer vase life. This fills the plant with colorful blossoms and you won’t feel as guilty snatching a bloom or two later in the season.”

According to Patti, it is true that flowers should always be cut early in the morning or well after sundown. “It is too stressful to the flower to be harvested in the middle of the day,” she says. “And it is imperative that before putting your flowers in a vase you cut the stems on an angle with a clean, sharp knife, remove any foliage that will be below the waterline, and then place it immediately in cool fresh water. Change the water every two to three days to prolong the life of your cut blossoms.”

To see a complete list of flowers that Patti recommends for a cutting garden, visit the Urban Roots website at And happy cutting!

Urban Roots Community Garden Center Cooperative boasts more than 600 member owners and is still growing. Share your gardening thoughts, stories, and questions at

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